Have you got 2020 vision?

As part of International Restorative Justice Week, this Wednesday we are holding our AGM and annual conference. This will be a chance to reflect on the work of the RJC and our members over the last year. But it will also be a chance to look forward. The theme of the conference is ‘2020 vision’ (pun intended) and we’ll be discussing what lies ahead for the restorative practice field over the next five years.

So, what can be achieved by 2020?

First, a lack of public awareness remains an issue. Whether you are trying to implement a restorative approach in a school and need to get parents on board or you are trying to engage a victim in a restorative justice process, the lack of public knowledge about restorative practice is a significant barrier. This, however, can be addressed. Why shouldn’t we aim to ensure that everybody has at least heard of restorative practice by 2020?

Second, we need more provision. In all work with young people, in particular, I expect to see the use restorative practice continue to grow. I’m confident that many more schools will follow trailblazers like Childs Hill and Carr Manor Community School in implementing a restorative approach. Children’s care homes are another area where restorative practice should be used far more widely than is currently the case, something that we will be highlighting in our response to the current review of children’s residential care. By 2020 real progress on this should have been made.

Within the justice sector, renewed funding for PCCs to provide restorative justice services would give them greater security and freedom to plan provision into the future. By 2020 these services need to be embedded in the local landscape, an integral and integrated part of local victims’ services. Stronger entitlements for victims to access restorative justice – via a new Victims’ Law – should also be in place.

Third, current challenges in the criminal justice sector about how best to increase take up of available services need to be met. We need to be better at breaking down the barriers – such as data sharing issues, faulty referral mechanisms and reluctant ‘gatekeepers’ – that prevent restorative justice from actually happening. If we want to crack this by 2020, all those in the field need to work together to find the most effective model.

Finally, wherever and whenever restorative practice is being used, it must be delivered safely and to a high standard in order to ensure positive outcomes. To achieve this, agreed national standards are essential. By 2020, the RJC’s standards should be integral to the delivery of restorative practice, recognised by all those working in the field.

These ideas aren’t intended to be exhaustive but rather a starting point for discussion. It’s clear that there are tough times ahead financially, particularly for those working in or with the public sector. Funding will be tight, staff will be increasingly stretched and further significant structural reforms of the public sector cannot be ruled out. But it is nonetheless important to maintain current momentum on increasing the profile and use of restorative practice.

With this in mind, what is your ‘2020 vision’ for the restorative practice field?